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Surrenders and repatriations of FDLR combatants increase as MONUC steps up DDRRR efforts

MONUC - September 28, 2009
MONUC - Congo

Concerted efforts by MONUC's DDRRR personnel and peacekeepers have contributed to a significant rise in surrenders and voluntary repatriation of FDLR combatants and dependents. UNHCR has also registered a steady rise in Rwandan refugees seeking to return home. As of 23 September, since the beginning of 2009 UNHCR has repatriated 10,841 Rwandan refugees while MONUC's DDR/RR section has demobilized and repatriated 1,048 Rwandan FDLR ex-combatants and 1,583 civilian dependents. The DDR/RR total represents a 233% increase over the repatriation rate of FDLR combatants for the same period in 2008.

DDR/RR's progress has been due to a combination of deep-field deployments to 25 locations and multiple sensitization techniques including face-to-face contact with FDLR commanders, mobile radio broadcasts, direct telephone contacts and leaflet air-drops.

DDRRR's mobile radio broadcasts reach both FDLR combatants and communities where they are present within a modest radius of DDRRR positions. Direct telephone contact with commanders and common soldiers, as well as leaflets dropped on known FDLR positions inform FDLR combatants and their dependents of the option of voluntary repatriation and help persuade them to abandon hard-line leaders and a hopeless future in the bush.

Perhaps the most important technique is the establishment of DDRRR positions with MONUC military detachments that provide protection. The safety and security provided by these military along with messages passed by DDRRR officers help give confidence to those who wish to break out of the clutches of their commanders that they --- and their families --- can get out safely. The presence of peacekeepers and transport provided by MONUC (often by helicopter) contributes to this reassurance and results in an often-overlooked successful MONUC team effort.

The military pressure created by Kimia II military operations conducted by the FARDC aid in this effort to some extent. MONUC's DDR/RR network [reaches into the heart of FDLR encampments with UN military and FDLR military police whose aim it is to discourage and impede desertions while DDR/RR sensitization efforts push on. Sustainability of FARDC operations and continued adaptability, flexibility and maneuverability of MONUC DDRRR, military and logistics are all-important factors in maintaining intensity and effectiveness of disarmament and repatriation operations.

Despite the progress made this year, sensitization and repatriation efforts are made more difficult by the influence exerted by FDLR leaders abroad. FDLR leaders abroad who operate freely and without impunity continue to live comfortably abroad while communicating with desperate FDLR combatants on the ground in the DRC. These so-called leaders play a negative role by directing those engaged in a range of criminal activities, including illegal possession of arms, extortion, murder, rape and recruitment of child soldiers – crimes recognized as crimes against humanity.

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